Tuesday, December 15, 2009

As Microfinance Grows in India, So Do Its Rivals : A report from WSJ

A report form KETAKI GOKHALE (WSJ) says that Small Credit Lines Were Supposed to Trim the Practice of High-Interest Loans in Rural Areas, but Moneylenders Flourish.
The practice of making tiny loans to poor people, or microfinance, was supposed to help drive traditional village moneylenders from rural India.
Instead, traditional moneylenders, who typically charge high interest rates, are thriving, even in areas most heavily targeted by microfinance, which was begun as a way to help combat poverty by granting the poor access to capital to start businesses. Muhammad Yunus, the Bangladeshi founder of microfinance, won a Nobel Peace Prize.
Even as the government and nonprofit organizations came together to create the Indian microfinance market in the 1990s, traditional moneylenders' share of total rural Indian household debt grew to 29.6% from 17.5%, according to a government survey. Another recent survey by the Reserve Bank of India found that between 1995 and 2006, the number of registered traditional moneylenders increased 56% to 19,627 from 12,601. Though much harder to quantify, unlicensed lenders are believed to have made similar gains, the survey says.
One potential reason for their growth: Some microfinance borrowers say they need village moneylenders to help them pay their debts on time. Some academic researchers believe the moneylenders are keeping afloat many microfinance groups.
Peer pressure to pay back microfinance loans is intense, because microlenders almost always require borrowers to join small, tightknit groups. If one member defaults, none can get another loan. Microloans have a stellar repayment rate -- close to 100% -- and some analysts believe a hidden reason is the stopgap provided by moneylenders.
Microfinancing has boomed in recent years. Though founded as nonprofits, the Indian microfinance industry has been turbocharged by private-equity firms, nearly doubling in the year ended March 31, delivering $2.5 billion in loans. Many microfinance lenders have recently registered as for-profit finance firms with the Reserve Bank of India, the Indian central bank, giving them wider access to funds but limiting them to "reasonable" interest rates. Those rates are still high -- between 20% and 40% annually, according to the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor, or CGAP, hosted at the World Bank.
But the rates are still lower than those offered by the traditional Indian moneylending industry, a chaotic jumble of pawn brokers, gold merchants and other private moneylenders -- some licensed, most not. For centuries they have monopolized rural Indian credit markets but have been accused of fleecing people who don't have access to formal banking by charging exorbitant rates and seizing all their belongings as collateral. They typically charge between 24% and 120% annually, according to CGAP.
Proponents of microfinance say people deeply in debt to moneylenders can now refinance their loans with a lower interest rate offered by microlenders. They also say it has boosted health and education levels among the world's poorest and has empowered women.
A new study from the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology shows that households with existing small businesses or a high propensity to start one benefit from microfinance -- they use the loans as investments. The study also found that these households cut back on "frivolous consumption," such as alcohol and tobacco, in order to divert more funds for investment purposes.
Here in Mahabubnagar, a city of migrant workers that has one of the highest concentrations of microfinance in Andhra Pradesh -- and one of the highest concentrations of moneylenders -- M. Murlidhar owns a traditional moneylending business. He says people are "repaying their loans faster," and that the "overall rotation of money in society has been increased" by the advent of microfinance and government lending programs.
The city has 50 registered moneylenders, and an unknown number of unregistered lenders. On the town's main drag stand prominent offices for virtually every kind of lender from moneylenders and microfinance companies to chit funds, a sort of savings club that auctions its funds to the highest bidder. Locals say lending is so frothy that it is possible to get day loans in the vegetable market that provide 100 rupees in the morning that have to be repaid with 10 rupees interest by dusk. More than 80% of registered moneylenders in Jadcherla, the nearby lending center for the district, launched their businesses after 2000, when the number of microfinance lenders began to skyrocket.
One lender, who wished to remain anonymous because his business is unregistered, gives borrowers short-term, collateral-free loans "as quickly as an ATM gives money," he boasts. Interest sometimes has to be paid on a daily basis and works out to an annual rate of 48%.
The poor use his loans as a stopgap when they can't make their weekly microfinance repayments because their income was less than expected, he says.
In Hanuman Nagar, a slum nestled under a highway, the moneylenders are virtually indistinguishable from the microlenders. They distribute knock-off versions of the microlenders' passbooks. Some use the same weekly repayment structure and door-to-door service as the microlenders do.
The difference, however, is that the moneylenders give loans faster, without asking the women to form groups and serve as each other's guarantors, as microfinance lenders do in order to ensure a higher repayment rate. They also charge significantly more than the four microlenders serving the neighborhood.
Baleshwari, 23 years old, and her sister Balamani, 40, started taking microcredit two years ago when their father, the sole breadwinner, died. Between the two of them, they have taken loans from four different microlenders and owe payments totaling 4,430 rupees, about $95, each month. During the monsoons, when their combined monthly income, drawn from selling bamboo baskets and catering food, dips to about $65, they turn to the local pawn broker for short-term loans to cover their microfinance debt. The interest rates she pays to pawn brokers range from 36% to 48%, she says, and she had to put up gold jewelry as collateral. Her microfinance loans have interest rates of 18% and 24%.
"Group pressure makes us go to moneylenders" to cover their microfinance loans, says Baleshwari, who goes by only one name, as does her sister. "We get small loans for 15 days to fill the gaps when we can't pay. If you lag behind, the rest of the group members can't get new loans."
This dynamic is why some analysts believe the village moneylenders are actually floating the microfinance lenders.
Microlenders disagree. They say the boom in traditional moneylending has been fueled by an increase in demand for credit, and that the share of debt owed to moneylenders is up because microfinance has yet to hit maximum penetration. Some doubt that microfinance is spurring moneylender growth. Although "microfinance institutions and moneylenders offer different products, and it would be quite possible for them to work side-by-side," it doesn't imply a causal relationship, says Rachel Glennerster, executive director of the Poverty Action Lab. She suggested some borrowers may not be paying one loan with another, but using additional funds to expand businesses.
Microfinance has "introduced the concept of income generation to poor women," and also encouraged them to spend on their children's education and health, adds Padmaja Reddy, managing director of Spandana, one of the largest microlenders in India. This has "increased the overall demand for credit."
But here in Mahabubnagar, few women have started their own businesses. Some of those in business have to rely on moneylenders. Microloan repayments begin the week after the loan is disbursed and continue with weekly payments. Most businesses don't produce instant profits, and many are seasonal, so moneylenders can help when funds are tight.
Where microlenders, relative newcomers to rural India, rely on peer pressure for repayment, private moneylenders have historically been conservative in their practices: extending loans based on an intimate knowledge of people's finances, and building their client bases over many years, says Sridhar Tadepally of Villages in Partnership, a Mahabubnagar-based development organization.
But since microfinance took off in Mahabubnagar, he has seen moneylenders start to "adopt the methods of microfinance" -- small loans, large volumes and regular repayments -- "to scale up their business."

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

TOI Says: MFIs offer home loans

With the lending rates falling, it's not just the urban home buyers who are benefiting. Micro finance institutions (MFIs) are now rolling out home loan products to the poor in rural India. And they are finding takers too. For their part, MFIs are lending to those having a good repayment track record. Most people in villages own plots and they construct the house on a low-cost model with indigenous materials, says Tara Thiagarajan, chairman of Madura Micro Finance. This low-cost construction model is what is prompting MFIs to dole out home loans. SKS Microfinance is planning to launch a home loan product next fiscal. It would start as a pilot in rural Andhra Pradesh. "We are still finalising the interest rates," says Suresh Gurumani, CEO and managing director of SKS Microfinance. The rural home loan products are structured pretty much the same way as in the cities. The difference being the average loan amount. For MFIs, it ranges between Rs 50,000 and Rs 2 lakh with repayments being in equated monthly instalments (EMIs). Some like Madura Micro Finance also provide a payment holiday of four months for construction. The real action on the rural home front is loans for home improvements and extension - converting the thatched roof into a tiled one, adding bathrooms or other additional rooms. SKS and Grama Vidiyal, which is also planning to launch a home loan product soon, are concentrating on the home improvement and addition space.

SAIJA: Technically the first commercial MFI of Bihar origin

Saija Finance Private Limited is a Non Banking Finance Company (NBFC) formed in April 2008 with a focus on providing microfinance services for the urban and rural poor, as well as micro and small businessmen in the underserved geographies of Northern India – Bihar, Jharkhand, Delhi, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and parts of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. SAIJA has an aggressive expansion plan aiming to reach over 60,000 clients by year three and around 2.50 lakhs by year five. The geographic regions served by SAIJA are amongst the poorest areas of India and also are grossly underserved by formal financial institutions. As such, SAIJA is uniquely positioned to bring organized financial services to a large number of poor clients who otherwise would not have access to credit and other financial services on attractive terms. This also presents an appealing business opportunity.SAIJA started with a small portfolio of micro loans, taken over from its associate non-profit entity, Saija Vikas, which was registered as a society in July 2007 under the Societies Registration Act No. 21 of 1860. The company started in July 2007 with a market research survey interviewing 1500 clients in the Patna slums regarding their socio-economic conditions, prevailing economic activities and current access to financial products. The name Saija has been coined from “Sai” of Sai Baba of Shiridi, an Indian saint, while “Ja” has been taken from the holy shrine of Ajmer Sharif which is the tomb of Hazrat Mu'inuddin Chishti, the founder of the Sufi order. The companies and businesses set up by them earlier were also named Saija. Mr. Sinha, the founder, has a hugely successful track record and a wealth of experience in banking, housing finance and insurance while Mrs. Sinha, the co-founder, has over 25 years experience in the human resources field. Saija is a young MFI having begun operations in its pilot branch in November 2007. It is looking to build robust systems and processes for the remainder of this fiscal year before its projected exponential growth next year.

Saija Microfinance recieves investment from Accion International

Accion has acquired a 49.5 % equity stake in Saija Microfinance for Rs 2.5 Crore(US $500,000).
Saija Finance Private Limited is a Non Banking Finance Company (NBFC) formed in April 2008 with a focus on providing microfinance services for the urban and rural poor, as well as micro and small businessmen in the underserved geographies of Northern India – Bihar, Jharkhand, Delhi, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and parts of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
SAIJA has an aggressive expansion plan aiming to reach over 60,000 clients by year three and around 2.50 lakhs by year five.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Monday, November 30, 2009

Furthering Financial Inclusion through Financial Literacy and Credit Counselling

(Address by Dr. K.C.Chakrabarty, Deputy Governor, Reserve Bank of India at the launch of Federal Ashwas Trust on November 30, 2009 in Kochi, Kerala.)
I am happy to be here this morning and feel privileged to launch the Federal Ashwas Trust for running the Financial Literacy and Credit Counselling Centres (FLCC) of Federal Bank. At the outset, let me warmly congratulate my old friend and colleague Shri M. Venugopalan, MD and CEO, Federal Bank, and his team for bringing the FLCC of Federal Bank to fruition. Even though Kerala has the highest literacy rate amongst all States in the country, I am sure that centres such as these have a vital role to play in providing valuable services to the people in the district.

2. As our Hon’ble Finance Minister emphasized in his Budget speech, our approach to banking and financial sector has been to ensure robust oversight and regulation while expanding financial access and deepening markets. The merit of this balanced approach has been borne out in the recent experience as the turbulence in the world financial markets has left the Indian banking and financial sector relatively unaffected. The recent turmoil which engulfed the western world and its financial sector brought to even sharper focus the pressing need to protect the vulnerable from Ponzi schemes through safety nets of financial education, counselling and timely advice.
3. The establishment of FLCCs is an important milestone in furthering financial inclusion. As I have emphasised time and again, opening a no frills account is by itself not financial inclusion. That is just the beginning. Financial inclusion is a much broader term which can be construed as the process of ensuring fair, timely and adequate access to financial services, namely, saving, credit, payment and remittance facilities, and insurance services at an affordable cost in a fair and transparent manner by the mainstream institutional players. Educating people and making them financially literate thus becomes integral to achieving financial inclusion, which is why centres such as these are needed.
4. With the above perspective, I organize the rest of my remarks under the following sections. In Section 1, I propose to talk about the importance of financial education. In Section 2, I would briefly touch upon the need for credit counselling. Section 3 discusses the specific objectives of setting up the FLCCs. Section 4 covers the role of RBI and, finally, I shall share some of my thoughts on issues and challenges that we need to address.
I. Financial Education
5. Financial education can broadly be defined as the capacity to have familiarity with and understanding of the financial market products, especially rewards and risks in order to make informed choices. Viewed from this standpoint, financial education primarily relates to personal financial education to enable individuals to take effective actions to improve overall well-being and avoid distress in financial matters.
6. The financial markets offer a variety of both simple and complex financial products. It is difficult for the common person to grasp the downside risks associated with financial products especially if he or she is confronted by a blitz of clever advertising. Making wrong choices while choosing financial products becomes one of buying in haste and repenting at leisure. The focus of any discussion on financial education is thus primarily on the individual, who usually has limited resources and skills to appreciate the complexities of financial dealings with financial intermediaries on matters relating to personal finances on a day-today basis.
7. Lack of literacy in general and financial literacy in particular, are the main hurdles in expanding the coverage of financial services to the poorer segments of society. Notwithstanding the initiatives taken so far, given the large magnitude of the problem, concerted efforts need to be made in this direction. Banks should, therefore, come forward to set up literacy centres and guide their clients about the features, benefits and risk of various financial products. With no well established banking relationships, the un-banked poor are pushed towards expensive alternatives. These centres can educate the people about proper financial management tools, inculcate saving habits and generate demand for financial products and services which in turn will boost financial inclusion. This process of education could benefit the banks as the centres while interacting with customers would be in a much better position to understand their specific requirements, which could then be a critical input in appropriate product design.
8. Financial education is also an integral component of customer protection. Despiteconcerted efforts, the current levels of transparency coupled with the difficulty of consumers in identifying and understanding the fine print from the large volume of information, leads to an information asymmetry between the financial intermediary and the customer. For example, customers are often penalised for minor violations in repayments, although they have limited redressal mechanisms to rectify deficiencies in service by banks. In this context, financial education can greatly help the consumers.
II. Credit Counselling
9. Credit Counselling can be defined as 'counselling that explores the possibility of repaying debts outside bankruptcy and educates the debtor about credit, budgeting, and financial management’. It serves three purposes. First, it examines the ways to solve current financial problems. Second, by educating about the costs of misusing a credit, it improves financial management. Third, it encourages the distressed people to access the formal financial system.
10. As per the All India Debt and Investment Survey, 2003, nearly a fourth of the households were indebted in 2002. The per cent of indebtedness households in rural areas increased sharply from 23 in 1991 to 27 in 2003; the corresponding figures for urban areas during the same period were 19 and 18, respectively. As per the NSSO survey (2003), out of 89.35 million farmer households, 43.42 million (48.6%) were reported to be indebted. Farmer’s indebtedness was highest in Andhra Pradesh followed by Tamil Nadu and Punjab. The average outstanding loan per farmer household was highest in Punjab, followed by Kerala, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
11. The report on the Situational Assessment of Farmers (NSS 59th round-2003) estimated that 64.4% farmer households are indebted in Kerala as against the national average of 48.6%. The major reasons for arrears in repayment reported include high cost of cultivation, fall in prices of agricultural produce and crop failures. Opening of credit counselling centres such as these can certainly benefit the people.
12. Earlier, there were reports of farmers committing suicides in some parts of the country due to their financial liabilities. Through the provision of timely and professional advice, common people can be helped to manage their debt, improve money management skills and gain access to the structured financial system. Counselling can help solve current financial problems, create awareness about the costs of misusing a credit, can improve financial management and help develop realistic spending plans. Debt counselling/credit counselling can be both preventive and curative. In case of preventive counselling, the centres could provide awareness regarding cost of credit, availability of backward and forward linkages, where warranted, etc. The clients could be encouraged to avail of credit on the basis of their repaying capacity. Preventive counselling can be through the media, workshops and seminars. In the case of curative counselling, the clients may approach the counselling centres to work out individual debt management plans for resolving their unmanageable debt portfolio. Here, the centres could work out effective debt restructuring plans that could include repayment of debt to informal sources, if necessary, in consultation with the bank branch.
III. Specific Objectives of FLCCs
13. With the above background, let me remark on the specific objectives of setting up FLCC. As you are aware, while the broad objective of the FLCCs will be to provide free financial literacy/education and credit counselling, the specific objectives of the FLCCs would be:
To provide financial counselling services through face-to-face interaction as well as through other available media like e-mail, fax, mobile, etc. as per convenience of the interested persons, including education on responsible borrowing, proactive and early savings, and offering debt counselling to individuals who are indebted to formal and/or informal financial sectors;
To educate the people in rural and urban areas with regard to various financial products and services available from the formal financial sector ;
To make the people aware of the advantages of being connected with the formal financial sector ;
To formulate debt restructuring plans for borrowers in distress and recommend the same to formal financial institutions, including cooperatives, for consideration ;
To take up any such activity that promotes financial literacy, awareness of the banking services, financial planning and amelioration of debt-related distress of an individual;
14. FLCCs are not expected to act as investment advice centres /marketing centres for products of any particular bank/banks. Counsellors may refrain from marketing / providing advice regarding investment in insurance policies, investment in securities, value of securities, purchase/ sale of securities, etc., or promoting investments only in bank’s own products.
IV. Role of the RBI
15. We, at the RBI, actively encourage these initiatives and one of the main reasons for my coming here to launch the trust is to demonstrate our commitment to this cause. RBI has completed 75 years and in our platinum jubilee year, we are making concerted efforts to expand the reach of formal finance through outreach initiatives. All the stakeholders are being encouraged to push aggressively for greater financial inclusion. The Banking Codes and Standards Board of India (BCSBI) has recently brought out an updated code to ensure that the banks formulate and adhere to their own comprehensive code of conduct for minimum standards of banking services, which individual customers can legitimately expect. And finally, the Banking Ombudsman Scheme has been instituted for redressal of grievances against deficient banking services, covering all the States and Union Territories.
V. Issues and Challenges
16. Since promoting awareness is one of the primary objectives, the FLCCs should give due emphasis to customers' rights under fair practices code and act as watch dogs. Our institutions must provide high quality public services to all citizens with transparency and accountability. To achieve this, there are several issues and challenges that come to my mind:
The first issue is that of treating the customers fairly. Transparent pricing, terms and conditions of financial products including interest charges, premia, fees and user friendly products made available in a form which is intelligible to borrowers would go a long way in reducing the need for having financial education centres in the first place. There is a need to sensitise the bank staff to engineer an attitudinal shift with empathy for the poor, strengthen and streamline systems to improve the efficiency of our distribution and delivery mechanisms.
The second issue for banks is to expand the range and reach of counselling and advisory services to vulnerable sections. For this a large number of such centres would be required. Up to end June 2009, banks have reported setting up 154 credit counselling centres in various States of the country. Obviously, there are many districts which still do not have such centres and we need to strive towards setting up more centres.
Third, banks need to facilitate the empowerment of credit counselling centres for them to be effectively liaising and negotiating on behalf of their customers. It must be understood that FLCCs are to facilitate responsible behaviour among financial institutions serving customers at the base-of-pyramid as part of their focus on equity and efficiency.
The fourth issue is that of enlisting committed and well trained personnel to man these centres. As quality of service is an important aspect, it is desirable to have appropriately bench-marked quality standards for credit counsellors and counselling agencies. A related issue is that whether there should be accreditation of credit counselors? If so, who should do it, industry associations or individual banks? These could be considered in due course.
The fifth issue that faces agencies is that of following a segmented approach vis-a-vis a broad-based generalized one. It is clear that banks may have to adopt a segmented approach specific to different categories of borrowers and different credit segments. Similarly, in respect of urban and rural areas, different approaches would be required. For instance, the centres in rural and semi urban areas could concentrate on financial literacy and counselling for farming communities and those engaged in allied activities. The centres in metro/urban areas could focus on individuals with overdues in credit cards, personal loans, housing loans, etc. Thus, the challenge is to tailor differential literacy and counselling mechanisms depending upon the need.
Sixth, an important issue from the financial literacy perspective is that of content design and appropriate delivery medium and mechanism suitable to the particular target group.
Lastly, as lack of awareness is major stumbling block in such initiatives, it is necessary to give wide publicity to the concept of credit counselling and the free availability of such services. Effectively utilizing the various mass communication channels and leveraging information technology would assume importance in this context.
VI. Conclusion
17. I hope the FLCC of Federal Bank would bring ‘Ashwas’ or relief to the common person. The bank, based on the experience gained, may like to consider opening more such centres in other districts of the State in due course as the benefits of such initiatives flow back to the banks. We need to collectively strive to deepen and broaden the agenda for inclusive development; and to ensure that no individual, community or region is denied the opportunity to participate in, and benefit from the development process.
I wish the Trust all the success.

Sunday, November 29, 2009


In order to transform its economy as a major tourist and financial hub, Dubai borrowed US$80bn. However, it suffered a massive property slump in last year’s credit crisis. Now, it is not able to repay its liabilities, and asking borrowers to postpone repayments. There were 53 lakh Indians in the Gulf, of which 31% were in the UAE, mostly employed by construction sector for Dubai’s real estate boom. The Gulf region accounts for over half the total inward remittances worth over USD 25 billion annually from expatriate Indians, out of which 10% of overall remittances to India could be from construction workers. If Dubai were to default, there would be repercussion in other parts of world, where banking would take a hit from lending to Dubai. Though the overall size of the liabilities are not very big compared to US banking problems, this could be a taken as an excuse for the markets to correct at lower levels.

The biggest debate on Indian Microfinance Sector: Why There's No Credit Crisis in Microfinance

by Vikram Akula
A recent article in the Wall Street Journal would have you believe there is a credit crisis brewing in Indian microfinance — that microfinance institutions are indiscriminately over-lending as they seek to maximize profits. But the article's assertion was based on a small sample of data that's not representative of the larger industry. An overload of debt among a few individuals, in one slum, in one city, in one state of India hardly constitutes a bubble. It also misrepresents the nature of microfinance in India today.
Here are just a few of the facts:
Repayment rates in India remain solid. Microfinance institutions in India, which serve 22 million clients, have consistent repayments rates of 95% and above — payments that clients could not make if they were not generating regular income, given the weekly collection schedules most microfinance institutions follow. The Microfinance Information Exchange (MIX), a Washington-based nonprofit, reports that the average repayment rate of leading MFIs in India — which have the largest share of clients — is 98%. My own institution, SKS, which serves more than five million clients spread across 70,000 villages and slums of India, has a 99% repayment rate. In tens of thousands of villages and slums across India, millions of microfinance customers are thriving and climbing steadily out of poverty — as shown by a number of independent studies. One in particular, by Karuna Krishnaswamy, suggests that borrowers from multiple microfinance organizations have an equal or lower arrears rate than single-borrowing peers in the same branches. The slum in Karnataka that the Journal article focused on is an aberration in the industry.
Microfinance borrowers go through a rigorous approval process. The process of approving microfinance loans is completely different from the lax system in the U.S. for approving the mortgages that led to the subprime crisis. Leading microfinance institutions like SKS follow a strict procedure to ensure loans can be comfortably repaid. We require potential members to take three hours of financial literacy training and pass a test indicating they understand interest rates, loan installments, and other product features. We also make small loans exclusively for income-generating activities, not for consumption. We lend only to women, who are known to be more careful with their use of loans than men, and who borrow in interdependent groups of five. Yes, some microfinance institutions — particularly new entrants — may violate these norms. But to extrapolate from the exceptions a sweeping generalization about the entire sector is at best unbalanced; at worst, irresponsible.
In lieu of credit scores, borrowers prove their reliability over time. The Journal article cites, as cause for concern, that the "average Indian household debt from microfinance lenders almost quintupled between 2004 and 2009, to about $135 from $27." But the piece failed to point out the underlying reason for this number surge: microfinance institutions deliberately start with small loan sizes and increase them year-on-year as a borrower demonstrates credit worthiness. This gradual increase in loans is a substitute for the lack of a credit score among the poor — something that this neglected and largely undocumented segment of the population does not have. It is a standard practice in the microfinance model pioneered by Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunus. Moreover, even at $135, microfinance institutions are still lending well below the typical credit need of a poor household in India, which is $400 (based on survey data from an independent study commissioned by the government's Small Industries Development Bank of India). These data suggest that, on average, there is no over-lending issue for the sector.
Microfinance isn't perfect, and like any fledgling, high-growth sector it's going to experience growing pains. But we're taking steps to ease those pains while upholding ethical and transparent lending practices. About 220 microfinance institutions that are members of the industry association Sa-Dhan have signed a voluntary code of conduct. The leading MFIs are also working to create a microfinance credit bureau that would help mitigate credit risk.
The sector's rapid growth has been fueled in part by commercial interests. But there's a lot of merit to the commercial approach. In a decade, SKS has reached millions of poor people at a pace unimaginable not long ago, and we're now pioneering other ways to use our extensive network to give people access to other products and services they need, such as water filters, solar lamps, and mobile phones. Such scale would have taken far longer if the industry were funded solely by more limited philanthropic funds and grants — and in the meantime, another generation would have slipped into the grinding cycle of poverty.